BJP on course to 200 seats in West Bengal, says Shah
Hails high voter turnout as a ‘good sign for democracy’; alleges phones of opposition leaders in Bengal being tapped.
Union home minister Amit Shah said on Sunday the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could win 26 out of the 30 West Bengal seats and more than 37 of the 47 Assam constituencies that went to the polls in the first phase of assembly elections on Saturday, adding that his party was on course to achieving its target of 200 seats in West Bengal.
The two eastern states voted in the first phase of the assembly elections on Saturday, turning out in impressive numbers in the polls that will determine if the Trinamool Congress can stand up to the challenge by the BJP, which is also trying to retain power in the Assam.
Addressing a news briefing on Sunday, Shah said if the people of Nandigram assembly constituency —from where West Bengal chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is contesting — decides to bring about change, then it will reflect in the rest of the state as well. The senior BJP leader is expected to be in Nandigram next week to address a rally. The BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari, a one-time Mamata confidant who recently switched sides, is the BJP’s contestant from Nandigram.
Shah said the fact that polling in both states, especially in West Bengal, was peaceful without any incidents of violence was a good sign for the future of democracy. As per estimates of the Election Commission, 84% turnout was recorded in West Bengal and 79% in Assam.
While the ruling TMC in West Bengal has said that the high voter turnout is indicative that people have voted to in favour of the state government, Shah said the trends suggested otherwise.
“The turnout in West Bengal and Assam shows the excitement of the voters. Till a few years ago, the eastern states were known for political violence, but no one was killed, and no incidents were reported on Saturday, and this is a good sign for the democracy,” Shah said.
The home minister hit out at the TMC after it released an audio in which BJP vice president Mukul Roy is allegedly telling industrialist and party leader Shishir Bajoria about their approach to the Election Commission, saying this shows that phones of opposition leaders were being tapped in the state. “The conversation should be heard properly; the leaders are talking about the demand made by us to the EC for the transfer of some officials which is on record. But who is tapping the phones?” he said.
He went on to say that there were some apprehensions about the election process being vitiated but the election commission has been able to conduct elections peacefully. “Media had stopped covering violence in the state (WB) assuming this is part of the process,” he said.
Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that “the people’s verdict will be evident after votes are counted”. Without naming Shah, Banerjee questioned how a claim on seat predictions could be made just a day after the elections were held.
“A leader today said that the BJP will win 26 of 30 seats, why did he not claim all 30, did he leave the rest for Congress and CPI(M)?” Banerjee said, addressing a rally in the Chandipur constituency, adjacent to Nandigram.
Shah recently told HT in an interview that his estimate of winning 200-plus seats in West Bengal was based on the party’s performance in the 2019 general elections.
To a separate question on an alleged phone call between Banerjee and a BJP leader from Nandigram who has claimed that the CM urged him to rejoin the TMC, Shah said: “Everyone has the right to draw up support for themselves, she was doing that too.”
Shah also slammed the TMC for suggesting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Bangladesh, where he visited the Matua community’s shine in Orkandi, was a breach of election norms. “The party should know that election laws are limited to within India; this was a foreign visit to strengthen bilateral relations. Besides, the Prime Minister has not said anything about the election.”
To a question on speculation about his purported meeting with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, Shah said: “Everything need not be made public.”